A Letter To The EPABy Jeremy Anwyl July 28, 2011
I sent a note to Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Wednesday because I am a bit annoyed. The latest word on the ongoing saga of the proposed new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards is that there will be an event in Washington, D.C., this Friday to announce an agreement between the EPA, the Obama Administration and major car companies on the proposed standards for 2017 to 2025. The car companies contacted by Edmunds Autoobserver.com were quick to point out in interviews Wednesday that an agreement is close, but has not yet been inked.
This strikes me as a bit odd. If there were indeed agreement, then the standards would not be proposed, would they?
Thats the rub. Consumers, who werent invited to the negotiations, will finally have the opportunity to be heard after the standards are made public and before they are finalized Sept. 30. But does anyone seriously think the EPA will be open to changes after a deal with the car companies has been reached?
I made some points about CAFE last week. How does the latest version of the proposal rate? I cant really say. The leaks and rumors suggest it will be far too complex. And what exactly does the idea of a review around 2017 actually mean? I guess we will have to wait until Friday.
Meantime, heres a copy of the letter sent the EPA:
Dear Administrator Jackson,
I heard today that there will be an announcement this Friday on an agreement between the administration, the EPA and major car companies as to proposed new CAFE standards for the years 2017 through 2025. Rumors have been swirling about these proposed standards for weeks. We at Edmunds.com (http://www.edmunds.com)
have been fielding numerous calls looking for comment, particularly as it relates to the impact of the proposed standards on consumers.
Good questions are being asked, but as details about the proposed standards are indeed rumors, it has been hard to respond. Our calls to the EPA looking for official details have gone unreturned. The automakers have told me they have had to agree to secrecy as a condition for being included.
I understand the politics of being able to announce proposed standards at a press event with the major car companies in attendance. But there is a dark side as well. The optics of negotiating a deal in secret are horrible. Perhaps most disappointing is that you have conferred with environmentalists and with automakers, but neglected car buyers - the very consumers who will be asked to buy this new generation of vehicles.
Consumers are voicing real concerns. How will their choices be limited? Will prices rise? By how much? Adding to this angst is the sheer complexity of the proposed standards. Shouldnt a goal of any new standards be that they are easy to understand? Presumably individual consumers can weigh in after the proposed standards are actually announced. But it stretches reason to the breaking point to think that any consumer concerns will be taken seriously after a deal has already been struck.
President Obama campaigned that he would bring transparency to Washington. Judging by this process, I can only conclude that his administration still has not lived up to this promise.
Jeremy P. Anwyl